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Shocking Photos Show China's Largest Freshwater Lake Is Drying Up Fast
A huge ship was stranded on the lake bed in the Lushan District of Jiujiang on Nov. 2. Photo credit: Xinhua
Luoxingdun island, which was a lighthouse and navigation aid, is now accessible by foot. Photo credit: Xinhua
The Luixingdun island, which was once used as a navigation mark and lighthouse is now surrounded by grass with cattle grazing in the field. Photo credit: Xinhua
Residents of Jiujiang walk across completely dried up parts of the Poyang Lake. Photo credit: Xinhua
Dead fish are seen on the dried-up bed of Poyang Lake in Lushan City, east China's Jiangxi Province, Oct. 10. Photo credit: Xinhua
Cattle graze on the exposed bed of Poyang Lake in Lushan City, Oct. 10. Photo credit: Xinhua
The freshwater lake, which can grow to 1,737 square miles—big enough to cover an area larger than Rhode Island—sees regular seasonal variations but has started receding earlier each year since 1952. Xinhua, China's official news agency, said that diversions from the Yangtze River, a prolonged dry season and industrial activities are responsible.
This year, the water level in Poyang Lake dropped from 39.4 feet on Sept. 19 to 34.8 feet on Nov. 3, according to Xingzi Hydrological Station, which monitors the lake. Cattle are now grazing on the exposed lakebed. Tourists can walk large portions of the dried-up lake, while a large ship sits stranded on the bottom.
The largest freshwater lake in China, Poyang provides critical habitat for half a million migratory birds each year, including Siberian cranes. Less than 3,000 Siberian cranes remain in the wild and they are considered a critically endangered species.
The highly intelligent finless porpoise also calls the Poyang Lake home. Eight animals were removed from the lake in 2014 to secure habitats as the declining lake posed a threat to their survival. A healthy population also lives in the Yangtze River, under a conservation project led by WWF.
Uncounted numbers of dead fish lie on the dry Poyang lakebed. Local fisherman have seen their catch decrease and the fishing season shortened by two months due to the extended dry season.
In early 2012, the size of the Poyang Lake reached a low of 124 square miles. China Topix surmised that it "might soon share the fate of the Aral Sea." Once the world's fourth-largest salt-water lake, 60 percent of the Aral Sea disintegrated after decades of water diversion began under the Soviet Union.
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By Tara Lohan
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